Divorce can be one of the most challenging experiences of any person’s life. It can be very difficult to predict how any given divorce case will ultimately conclude. If you and your spouse have decided to divorce in Bloomington, IL, the divorce process can vary greatly based on many different factors. If you or your spouse are preparing to file a divorce petition with the Bloomington, IL family court system, it’s wise to understand how this legal process works and what you can expect in your own case.

There is no real way to accurately predict how a divorce case will unfold. There are simply too many factors present in any given divorce case, and every marriage is unique. However, there is a solid framework that these cases follow. It’s important to know how a divorce case proceeds through the Bloomington, IL family court system and the options you have for reaching a positive result.

Starting the Divorce Process in Illinois

The only requirement to file for divorce in Illinois is that you or your spouse must meet the 90-day residency requirement. As long as one of you has lived in Illinois for at least 90 days, either of you may file a divorce petition with your county courthouse. Once the court receives the divorce petition, they will formally serve divorce papers to the respondent, who will then have 30 days to provide a response. If the respondent does not meet this time limit, the court will likely grant the divorce petition in favor of the petitioner.

The divorce petition will typically outline the divorce petitioner’s proposed terms of divorce. It is very rare for a respondent to agree to these terms immediately. Most divorce cases begin as contested and gradually move toward an uncontested state through either collaborative divorce mediation or litigation.

What Is Mediation?

Divorce mediation, also called collaborative divorce, is similar to the private settlement option available in most other civil cases. Instead of letting the court have the final say in a divorce case after months or even years of stressful litigation, collaborative divorce allows a couple to settle the terms of their divorce privately. This method also allows the divorcing spouses to retain much greater control over the outcome of their divorce than they would have in litigation.

The mediation process is highly effective due to its simplicity: the two spouses and their respective attorneys, if desired, meet with a neutral mediator to privately discuss the terms of the divorce. The mediator’s job is to keep the negotiations focused and productive, clarify legal statutes, and ultimately assist in the drafting of the couple’s proposed divorce agreement.

A divorcing couple can negotiate property division in accordance with state laws, develop maintenance or alimony agreements if necessary, and cover many of the issues required in any divorce case. However, they cannot make any firm decisions concerning child custody and support. While they may write a parenting plan with proposed terms and conditions, this plan will require formal review and approval from a Bloomington, IL family court judge before it can take effect.

Divorce Litigation

Unfortunately, collaborative divorce is not always possible. Some divorcing spouses are unconvinced they could possibly have positive and constructive negotiations with their spouses. In some divorce cases, the issues at hand are simply too complex to cover accurately in private mediation and will require court review.

While divorce litigation may be unavoidable in some cases, it is always best to try and pursue mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods whenever possible before resorting to a court battle. Even a seemingly simple case can require months or even years to reach a conclusion.

If your divorce case proceeds to litigation, you can expect it to follow the same basic framework as most other civil cases. Both spouses will offer their sworn testimony, and both legal teams will have the opportunity to offer evidence, call witnesses, and cross-examine. Ultimately, the judge overseeing the case has the final say when it comes to the divorce decree. The litigation process is exhausting and offers very little control over the result.

What Must Be Covered in Divorce Proceedings?

In any Bloomington, IL divorce case, the couple must legally separate their property and establish new ownership rights over their respective assets as single individuals. In Illinois, the property division process follows an equitable distribution statute, meaning the state generally seeks to divide a divorcing couple’s property as evenly as possible. However, this is not the same as the strict 50/50 division required in community property states.

A Bloomington, IL court may determine property division as equitable with a 55/45, 60/40, 70/30, or other ratio based on each spouse’s individual assets, earning capacity, medical needs, and other factors. Whether you decide to approach your divorce through collaborative mediation or you are headed for litigation, you and your spouse must ultimately agree on the division of your property and debts.

Child Custody and Support

One of the most difficult aspects of divorce for any family is the impact the change will have on the divorcing couple’s children. Child custody determinations are some of the most bitterly fought aspects of modern divorce cases. The family court of Illinois has a duty to rule in favor of the children’s best interests in every divorce case. In the event you and your spouse decide to pursue collaborative divorce mediation, you must still submit your proposed parenting plan to the Bloomington, IL family court for final review and approval from a judge.

If your divorce proceeds through litigation, the judge will review the evidence in pay, consider character references, witness statements, and other records to make a fair determination in the eyes of the law. Any divorcing parent needs to remember that a divorce decree or custody determination is not set in stone. Under certain circumstances, it is possible to adjust these agreements in light of new life events.

Your family law attorney will be instrumental in assisting you in filing your post-judgment motion if you must do so at any point after obtaining your divorce decree. Reliable legal representation is the best available asset to anyone involved in a Bloomington, IL divorce case.